Chicago’s People Spots

Three summers have passed since Chicago became one of the first U.S. cities to reimagine on-street parking as places to “park” people, instead of cars. People Spots repurpose existing parking spaces into seasonal parklets for public use to generate community and economic development by attracting more people to retail corridors where they are shopping, people watching or just plain having fun. Each People Spot is wheelchair-accessible and outfitted with seating and planters (which provide a barrier to the street). They are maintained and paid for by local businesses, rather than by the City of Chicago.

At the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), we know these types of Placemaking tools have a lasting positive effect on neighborhoods and the people who live in them. Our purpose with this study was to learn more about People Spots’ impact on local businesses.

In July and August 2014, MPC and Sam Schwartz Engineering surveyed all nine Spots across the city to learn more about how people are using them and to gauge their economic impact. We recorded activity at each Spot on an average day, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and interviewed more than 100 people and almost 40 local business owners and business associations. In total, we recorded 450 people using the spots across nine locations. Here’s what local business owners told us.

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